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The Choices of the Modern Woman: Family or Career?


As a psychotherapist, I have heard many life stories of successful women. Thus, I learned that unlike the fairy tales from childhood in which everything ends happily with no one suffering, in real life, things are more complex.

Often, women are forced by circumstances to make decisions that affect their lives or the lives of those around them. That’s particularly due to the complex roles the modern woman must fulfill. These roles are: daughter, girlfriend, lover, wife, mother, career woman, manager or employee. For a more objective combination of these roles, she needs to know early on what she wants to achieve and manage the side objectives that can detract her from the above roles. At the same time, she will face other challenges during her life, starting with the teenage years when she will have to fight with the prejudices of the society, friends, family origin or her own fears, depending on each age period.

Let’s clarify below, in chronological order, a woman’s challenges, starting from adolescence until old age, the age of wisdom.

Most often in adolescence, a woman’s main weapons are energy, intelligence, beauty and the desire to achieve something in life. She wants these things because she got tired of life at home. She tries to seek an escape, or perhaps she saw a successful model somewhere in the press or among the people close to her and she is trying to follow that example. But now she may face some of the problems that may impede her realizing a career. She may fall in love with the wrong person, which may lead to a pregnancy that can keep her from accomplishing her goals for a while; it can end her career or stimulate her to achieve her goals.

career woman and baby

Then comes the first job or first investment at 20-25 years old. Here she can face again a major problem. She can get involved emotionally too much in her work, her working relationships or a love relationship. The emotional involvement can create problems for her in the sense that it may make her want more of a relationship than a career. She finds herself at a crossroads and must whether to continue the focus on a career and or on family. That does not mean that both career and family cannot go in parallel. But according to studies, this is the time many women decide to devote themselves entirely to the family, staying content with a job that will allow them to take care of the family and children.

Let’s go ahead to the age of 30 years old. This is the first threshold that can make her think back if she did well so far and if it’s worth going further. The woman who decided to focus on family can find herself lost in communication problems with her husband about the household tasks that she cannot sustain entirely by herself. If she has one or more children, she discovers that she no longer has enough time for lessons, tutoring (now children go to private lessons starting in first grade), or the sports clubs her children attend, where she waits quietly, sometimes sitting on a bench until the children finish their training before going home exhausted.

The career woman at this age probably managed to have a good job, which gives her the perspective to grow professionally. She is occupied with training or professional courses, possibly attending a college or earning a Masters’ degree. But perhaps for the first time she is thinking about whether it is too late to have a baby and feels somehow that the biological clock is ticking … Many women are single at this age and have already gone through several relationships. They come to my office and tell me they do not understand why they are alone or feeling alone. They talk about their partner who does not understand them, who asks them to decide if they want a family or career. At work they are trapped in company politics. They understood or are about to understand that to grow their career, a diploma, courses, training, specializations or experience are not enough. They are disappointed and frustrated and want to do more but do not understand what they need to change.

And so comes the age of 40 years old. The age of maturity, at which many women are having ugly depression or hysterical conversion of their frustrations, for which they cannot see the solutions. At this age, many consider it too late to build a family and find a suitable partner (“The good men are already taking” … they say sadly), and the possibility of having children seems like an untouchable dream. And if they didn’t reach the success they wanted and for which they made sacrifices, they feel disappointed and frustrated and tend to close up inside themselves, leaving them prey to depression.

By contrast, the women who got where they wanted fully enjoy their success and are going on dream vacations and taking care of their own health and their own image. But even they have problems. Even if they are successful, usually they don’t have enough time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. They may have problems in their relationships with their children, who can reproach them, complaining that they don’t have enough time for them. And even if the children have everything they need, nothing satisfies them. They need attention, affection, love, and tenderness, and they ask for these things how they can. The mother’s tendency is to try to buy the time they did not spent with their children. They bring all sorts of gifts and take them on all sorts of exotic vacations just because they can afford to, forgetting to correlate them with the children’s results.

We can draw some conclusions about how you can have a balance between family life and career:

  • Know as early as possible what career you want or can follow;
  • Try to find the right partner, allowing yourself to get to know the person you are falling in love with. Try to communicate with your partner about your dreams and your ideals and try to understand his. Thus, you can create a story as a couple, having a common vision that can ease the path to success;
  • Find the right friends with whom to spend wonderful moments. Do not let your friends use you or allow yourself to use them as a psychologist. This wears out the friendship and exposes your intimate problems, and at some point, you will regret it;
  • Read as much as you can in your area of expertise to learn as much as you can from those who have achieved something in order to gain time or become a real professional.

Let’s remember that in order to run a business, we can choose one of three roles that can make the life easier: president, manager or administrator. As soon as we discover which role suits us, the more our work will be more successful.

Also to be a successful woman, mother, wife, or girlfriend, it is good to allocate each role as much time and resources as necessary. But do not forget the internal balance, without which we cannot accomplish much or enjoy much.

Constantin Cornea, Psychotherapist and Life Coach

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